Pat Mills' Sláine, the 'Celtic Conan' has been wowing readers of UK sci-fi comic, 2000AD since 1983. The saga was never more vividly realised than when in the late 80s and early 90s when Mills and young artist, Simon Bisley produced the masterful epic, Sláine: The Horned God. Sadly, as this is an audiobook, inevitably, Bisley's wonderful visuals - the gore of the battles, the beauty of the land of Tir Nan Nog, Sláine's ageing sidekick Ukko and the sight of Sláine going into warp spasm (don't ask) are lost. This is nevertheless an excellent adaptation which does full justice to the classic comic story.
1985 (Prog 399- 450)
January: Prog 400!
February: (Prog 403): The cover price rises to 24p, three times its original 1977 price.
(Prog 404): The Stainless Steel Rat (Gosnell/Ezquerra) ends for good.
(Prog 405) The Ballad of Halo Jones (Moore/Gibson) returns for an acclaimed award-winning Book 2. Halo leaves the Hoop for a job on the luxury space liner, the Clara Pandy.
May (Prog 416): Judge Dredd favourite Cassandra Anderson confronts the Dark Judges in her own new strip, Anderson PSI (Wagner and Grant/Brett Ewins).
Other stories this year include Slaine, Rogue Trooper, Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter, Helltrekkers, Ace Trucking Co. and Strontium Dog.
June (Prog 425): Dredd runs into Chopper again in Midnight Surfer (Wagner and Grant/Cam Kennedy).
September (Prog 435): Nemesis the Warlock Book 5: Vengeance of Thoth (Pat Mills/Bryan Talbot).
(Prog 437): The Mean Team arrive (Wagner and Grant/Belardinelli).
October: The Best of 2000AD Monthly begins. Initially reprinting a range of stories in one issue e.g. Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog and Rogue Trooper, later issues restrict themselves to just one story e.g. Nemesis and the Gothic Empire or a collection of Dredd stories. it continues for 119 issues, falling just short of the ten year mark ending in August 1995.
November: Bad news for Johnny and Wulf as they run into Max Bubba in Strontium Dog.
Fantasy films, Legend, Red Sonja and Ladyhawke are all released this year.
French-Japanese animated space epic, Ulyssees 31 arrives on Children’s BBC.
January: James Cameron’s Terminator arrives in the UK.
Warrior comic breathes its last. Adult comic Viz goes nationwide.
March: 2010: The Year We Make Contact is released, Peter Hyams’ sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
April: Max Headroom (Matt Frewer) debuts on Channel 4.
December: Release of Back To The Future.
Chris Hallam is a freelance writer. Originally from Peterborough, he now lives in Exeter with his wife. He writes for a number of magazines and websites including The Companion, Yours Retro, Best of British and Comic Scene – in which he wrote about Judge Death, The Ballad of Halo Jones, Metalzoic, Dan Dare, The Eagle and Alan Moore’s Watchmen. In the past, he wrote for Metro.co.uk, Radio Times, DVD Monthly and Geeky Monkey. He co-wrote the book, Secret Exeter (with Tim Isaac) and wrote A-Z of Exeter – People, Places, History. He also provided all the written content for the 2014 annuals for The Smurfs, Furbys and Star Wars Clone Wars as well as for sections of the 2014 South Park annual and all the 2015 Transformers annual.
1984 (Progs 350 – 398)
There are fewer progs of 2000AD than usual this year, due to industrial action halting publication of the Galaxy’s Greatest comic for several weeks in the summer.
March (Prog 359): Judge Dredd investigates The Haunting of Sector House 9 (Wagner and Grant/Brett Ewins).
(Prog 362): The cover price rises to 22p.
April (Prog 366): Dave the Orangutan makes his first appearance in Portrait of a Politician in Judge Dredd.
July (Prog 376): The Ballad of Halo Jones (Alan Moore/Ian Gibson) begins. Initially not popular, in time it becomes one of the most highly acclaimed 2000AD stories ever produced.
August (Prog 377): Mean Machine returns in Dredd Angel (Wagner and Grant/Ron Smith). This is the first issue in a month, following a printers’ strike.
September (Prog 385): Halo Jones Book One ends. Strontium Dog saga Outlaw! ends too.
October (Prog 387): Nemesis the Warlock encounters The Gothic Empire (Mills/O’Neill). The story will see him re-unite the ABC Warriors as well as ex-Ro-Busters, Ro-Jaws and Mek-Quake.
November (Prog 392): Rogue Trooper tracks down the Traitor General.
Other strips this year include: The Helltrekers, Ace Trucking Co., Rogue Trooper, Slaine and D.R. and Quinch.
(Prog 393): The final and perhaps best of the comic adaptations of Harry Harrison’s novels, The Stainless Steel Rat For President begins (Gosnell/Ezquerra). Judge Dredd meanwhile confronts the Hill Street Blues in City of the Damned.
February: Surprisingly disturbing John Wyndham adaptation, Chocky airs on Children’s ITV. Chocky’s Children (1985) and Chocky’s Children (1986) later follow.
March: Horror comic Scream! is launched. Sadly, it finishes in June, partly as a result of the strikes this year. Stories such as The Thirteenth Floor find their way into The Eagle.
Peter Davison regenerates into Colin Baker on Doctor Who.
July: William Gibson’s ground-breaking cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer is published.
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock arrives. It is one of the odd numbered ones, so is generally considered less than good.
The Last Starfighter is released in the US.
Extra-terrestrial thriller, V lands on ITV this summer.
August: The first series of Manimal hits the UK.
September: The Tripods stride boldly onto British TV screens. Horrifying nuclear war drama, Threads is also broadcast.
October: Conan the Destroyer is unleashed.
November: The fourth Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book, So Long and Thanks For All The Fish by Douglas Adams is published.
December: The year ends on a high as Ghostbusters hits UK cinemas along with Joe Dante’s Gremlins. As does David Lynch’s Dune.
Chris Hallam is a freelance writer. Originally from Peterborough, he now lives in Exeter with his wife. He writes for a number of magazines and websites including The Companion, Yours Retro, Best of British and Comic Scene – in which he wrote about Judge Death, The Ballad of Halo Jones, Dan Dare, The Eagle, Metalzoic and Alan Moore’s Watchmen. In the past, he wrote for Metro.co.uk, Radio Times, DVD Monthly and Geeky Monkey. He co-wrote the book, Secret Exeter (with Tim Isaac) and wrote A-Z of Exeter – People, Places, History. He also provided all the written content for the 2014 annuals for The Smurfs, Furbys and Star Wars Clone Wars as well as for sections of the 2014 South Park annual and all the 2015 Transformers annual.
Chances are, if you like any comic at all, the last few years will have seen one of your favourites be made into some sort of film, with adaptations ranging from both the biggest to even the most obscure comics and graphic novels. Some, such as 2000AD’s most famous story, Judge Dredd, have been filmed more than once.
But which other stories from the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic are ripe for a big screen outing?
Sam Slade: Robohunter
The pitch: Like Blade Runner. Except funny.
Like Blade Runner, John “Judge Dredd” Wagner’s Robohunter took its inspiration from Philip K. Dick’s novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It was always much more fun than Ridley Scott’s film though (which it predates). Sam’s colleagues included Kidd, an obnoxious man trapped in a baby’s body and the idiotic android, Hoagy. His first mission saw him trying (and failing) to bring order to the colony Verdus where a full-blown robot revolution had occurred.
The pitch: Blue movie.
Thanks to Avatar, The Watchmen and The Smurfs, cinema’s latest “blue” period may have peaked a few years ago. But the blue genetically engineered warrior Rogue, trapped in an eternal war on the desolate Nu Earth is the only 2000AD character other than Dredd to have ever got his own annual and could work well on screen.
The pitch: The Hunger Games for grown-ups.
Not to be confused with Children’s ITV’s Button Moon (note: nobody has ever done this), this was a rare non-sci-fi outing for the comic. The premise – hired killers are paid by rich clients or “Voices” to hunt each other and fight to the death for sport – is so cinematic that it’s surprising it hasn’t been filmed already. In fact, Dreamworks bought the rights some years ago. But, as yet, there is no film.
The Ballad of Halo Jones
The pitch: The girl from tomorrow.
Before he became the beardy comics legend behind The Watchman and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Moore wrote a lot for 2000AD, notably this unusual female-centric strip which saw its heroine progress from life in the claustrophobic 40th century metropolis The Hoop, to a job on a luxury space cruise liner to ultimately fighting a future war on the time-distorting planet Moab.
Nemesis the Warlock
The pitch: Alien insurrection.
Nemesis is the alien leader of Credo, a resistance movement fighting the neo-fascist forces of the malevolent, futuristic masked megalomaniac Torquemada. With catchphrases like “Be pure, be vigilant, behave!” the villainous Torq is the real star of the strip. It’s a nice twist having humanity as the villain, although in general, Pat Mills’ story is probably a bit too weird to make into a film.
The pitch: The Celtic Conan.
Pat Mills’ Slaine, the musclebound warrior of the Land of the Young, Tir Nan Og, may be steeped in Celtic mythology, but it did start around the same time as the first Conan films. Despite unique twists (the whole thing is related by Slaine’s morally questionable dwarf sidekick Ukko and Slaine himself is also prone to warp spasms – don’t ask), a Slaine film might struggle to escape from such unfair comparisons.
The pitch: Surfs up!
A spin-off from Judge Dredd, Chopper – real name: Marlon Shakespeare -first appeared as a teenage graffiti artist not unlike a Mega City One version of Banksy, in the early Eighties before transforming into a world champion in the illegal sport of sky surfing. This could actually be brilliant, although risks comparison with the Silver Surfer (already brought to screen in the terrible Fantastic Four sequel). And as any Eric Bana fan will tell you: there is already a film called Chopper.
The ABC Warriors
The pitch: They, Robot.
Robotic fighting unit and sometime allies of Nemesis the Warlock (see above), the two most famous Atomic Bacterial Chemical Warriors – the wittily named Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein – first appeared in Ro-Busters, a sort of robot version of Thunderbirds, which appeared in 2000AD’s sister paper Star Lord, before merging into 2000AD in 1978. Oddly, Hammerstein has already been in a film, cropping up randomly in the first Judge Dredd movie.
The pitch: Alpha male.
In the future, a nuclear conflagration has left a sizeable minority of mutants, all forced – for some reason – to work as Search and Destroy agents (or “Strontium Dogs” basically bounty hunters) by the unsympathetic “norm” majority. The coolest of these is Johnny Alpha, accompanied by his Viking sidekick Wulf Sternhammer (“A skull to crack with the happy stick und Vulf is fine!”). Alpha’s mutation gives him white eyes but it also enables him to read minds and do all manner of cool stuff, so who’s complaining?
The pitch: She’s always in your mind.
Another Dredd spin-off but let’s face it, the psychic female Judge was the best thing about the recent Dredd film. She could also be pitched against Mega City One’s ultimate super-villain, Judge Death. Altogether now: the crime is life, the sentence is death!